FBI Citizen’s Academy

This week was arguably the week that everybody was most excited about. This week we had the opportunity to fire a few of the weapons the FBI uses. We also took turns using the F.A.T.S. (FireArms Training Simulator.) Before we got to play with the toys though, we had a introduction to the Department of Justice's Use of Deadly Force Policy Statement which was very interesting.

Use of Deadly Force

The FBI falls under the Department of Justice's Use of Deadly Force Policy Statement. You can read the entire statement here. While the entire statement is very important, the guts of it are:

I. Permissible Uses. Law enforcement officers and correctional officers of the Department of Justice may use deadly force only when necessary, that is, when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject of such force poses an imminent danger of death or serious physical injury to the officer or to another person.

If you read the rest of the statement, you will find that there are further limitations and rules for the use of deadly force. However, the heart of the statement is in the words "imminent danger of death or serious physical injury."

A couple of interesting things about that word imminent in the context of this statement:

  1. Imminent does not mean immediate. This means that the risk of death or injury can be a risk that is at some point in the future.
  2. Imminent is solely at the discretion of the agent.

Another interesting fact is that there can be multiple deadly force policy statements in force at the same time as different jurisdictions have different deadly force policies.

In addition to discussions about the policy statement, we talked about what happens when deadly force is used. I learned a number of interesting tidbits:

  1. A review is held in every case. However, the agent remains on duty and continues to carry a weapon. His weapon is, of course, entered into evidence, but he is provided with another immediately.
  2. A criminal investigation is performed in the local jurisdiction where the use occurred. This has to be disconcerting to say the least.

We also talked about what happens to the human body and senses in times of high stress. Several interesting statistics were shared. If you are interested in seeing some of the, check out this Wikipedia article. The human mind does some strange things under these circumstances.

After this talk, we learned a bit about the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) teams.


Each FBI field office has a SWAT team. In most cases the duties are in addition to regular agent duties. It is only in the larger offices where dedicated SWAT teams exist. There is also a dedicated hostage rescue team. There are over 1200 SWAT agents that can be rolled out if needed.

The SWAT guys were the ones who ran the rest of our evening.

A few facts about the FBI and weapons:

  • Each agent is required to qualify with their service weapon four times per year.
  • The standard side arm is a Glock .40 Caliber.
  • The standard SWAT weapon in the MP-5.
  • An FBI agent can and often goes their entire career without having to draw, let alone fire, their weapon. However, they are well trained and prepared to do so if necessary.


The first thing we experienced after our introduction to SWAT and the safety lecture was a live fire demonstration of a room entry.

This was very very cool. The SWAT team "breached" the room (range), used a flash bang and then let loose on the the targets on the range.

If you have never experienced a flash bang, which I had not, it is quite an experience. Even with ear protection the sound was very load. You could actually feel the thump in your chest. I was somewhat prepared for it going off and I still just about jumped out of my skin 🙂

After the demonstration, it was time to split up, half went to use the FATS and the other stayed on the range to fire the weapons.

The Range

I was in the first group on the range. We had the opportunity to fire the .40 caliber Glock, a .38 and an MP-5. I shot quite a bit as a youth, including automatic weapons, and was happy that those skills came back quickly. It was a lot of fun shooting and the SWAT guys were fantastic.

While firing the MP-5 was a lot of fun, I have always been partial to semi-automatic pistols. I enjoyed firing the Glock the most.

After our time on the range we went to take our turn using the FATS.


Using the FATS was an interesting experience as a participant and as a viewer. Even though it is a simulated experience, it is amazing how your body and mind reacts as you are in the scenarios. This is true even after you have watched others go through scenarios.

Your perceptions change and you experience things is a very different way than in your everyday life. That is why they use these trainers, to help agents become comfortable or at least aware of what their bodies and minds will do in they are ever in a situation where they must react with their weapons.

This was a really fun evening and fully lived up to the expectations I had for it.



The fourth week focused on Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and Evidence Response Teams (ERT.) We had the chance to actually have some hands on experience with some of the techniques used during evidence recovery.

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

WMDs are defined by the FBI as:

  • Any explosive or incendiary device, as defined in Title 18 USC, Section 921: bomb, grenade, rocket, missile, mine, or other device with a charge of more than four ounces;
  • Any weapon designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors;
  • Any weapon involving a disease organism; or
  • Any weapon designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life.

The FBI, through the Counterintelligence priority, focuses on WMDs from several perspectives. The primary goal is to prevent WMDs from being used on United States soil and abroad. Response to incidents is another responsibility.

The FBI's efforts fall in to four basic catergories:

  1. National Coordination - managed out of the WMD Directorate.
  2. Local response - each of the FBI's field offices has a WMD Coordinator. The coordinator is responsible for assessing and managing the response to WMD incidents.
  3. Outreach and Information Sharing - the coordinator is also responsible for talking to people about WMDs just like the agent did during our presentation.
  4. Preparedness - the coordinators work with local law enforcement, fire and safety personnel and others to engage in mock exercises to make sure all are prepared in the event there is an incident.

Some of the most dangerous and hard to control WMDs are biological and chemical. We were shown how common many of these materials are. This is not to say that they are safe to make or necessarily easy, but they are relatively common to come by.

If you are interested in more information on WMDs and the FBIs efforts to combat them, you can read more here.

The rest of the evening was spent focusing on the Evidence Recovery Teams

Evidence Recovery Teams (ERT)

The FBI's Evidence Recovery Teams are not staffed as full-time standing teams. The personnel who make up these teams have other duties. They are, however, highly trained and receive continuing education to keep their skills current.

Just like on CSI, they are the first to ent...just kidding. CSI, while entertaining and fun to watch, is about as far from how  real ERTs work as can be. The teams are called in after first responders have determined there is a need for FBI involvement or just a need for assistance.

The teams support federal, state and local law enforcement efforts and do not have to have jurisdiction over the case in order to be called in to assist.This is not to say that the FBI takes over cases. It means they are available support other agencies as requested or needed.

The do have some pretty cool toys like a device that allows them to map a scene in three dimensions which is nifty no matter how you look at it. They also spend a lot of time with mundane equipment like brushes, brooms and shovels. You can see a bit more information about ERTs here.

Play Time

On top of learning about the work the ERTs do, we also got to experience first hand some of the tool and techniques they use.

We learned how to take plaster casts of foot prints, lift fingerprints off various surfaces, use forensic vacuums, and look for trace evidence using alternate light sources. This was a lot of fun and I was able to successfully lift my fingerprint from a mirror. I wasn't quite as successful with anything more difficult 🙂

I really enjoyed getting my hands dirty.

Our next session will be at the range where we will get to fire FBI weapons. That is going to be fun!



I apologize for the delay in getting the post for week three to you. It was a very interesting evening.

Week three focused on the top 2 priorities of the FBI.

  1. Protect the United States from terrorist attacks
  2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage.


Currently, the FBI's number one priority is counter-terrorism, both international and domestic.

The FBI uses the definition of terrorism that is set out in the Code of Federal Regulations. That definition is:

“...the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85)

Two of the primary tools used by the FBI to fight terrorism are Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) and the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC.)


JTTFs are multi-agency task forces located, at a minimum, in every field office and every legal attache (international.) These task forces are made up of personnel from the FBI, Federal Marshals, Air Force, State and local law enforcement and other agencies. They are the primary weapon in the FBI's battle against terrorism. You can read more about JTTFs here.


The National Counterterrorism Center is where analysts from the FBI, CIA, DHS, DOD, HHS, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and other agencies work side by side to create a big picture view of terrorism and strategically plan how to battle it. The NCTC is responsible for creating the National Threat Bulletin for the President and Threat Matrix among other analysis products. There is also a central web-based system where information on terrorism can be accessed by and disseminated to participating agencies and organizations. You can read more about the NCTC here.

What has been Accomplished

If you would like to see some examples of the kinds of accomplishments that have been achieved in the counterterrorism arena, take a look at the Terrorism 2002-2005 (link to pdf) report. It is an interesting reading.

Other Resources

If you are interested in digging a little further into the FBI and their counterterrorism efforts, the FBI Counterterrorism page is a great place to start.

The agent that delivered this part of the evening's program gave us a great overview of terrorism, the activities terrorists use to fund their efforts and the methods that the FBI uses to identify, prevent, disrupt and defeat terrorists and their attacks. I took over eight pages of notes and could easily turn this post into a small novel, but I will save you from that 🙂


The second half of the evening was spent learning how about the FBI's counterintelligence efforts. The FBI is the only agency that has the authority to investigate foreign counterintelligence cases withing the United States. The FBI's counterintelligence efforts also include investigations into espionage, misuse of classified data and other national security issues. You can read more about the FBI and counterintelligence here.

I do want to say before I go any farther that counterintelligence, while having specific mandates, is also deeply involved in almost all facets of FBI work. For instance, counterintelligence is vital to the success of the fight against terrorism.

The mandate of the counterintelligence group is to combat espionage, economic espionage, and deal with weapons on mass destruction.


One of the very interesting things shared during this presentation were some basic tradecraft or techniques that spies use to communicate with their handlers. Handlers are the individuals to whom the person who is do the spying provides information.

We see movies with all kind of fancy gadgets and high-tech ways for spies to signal each other, but, in reality, it is much simpler. For instance, a particular type of soda can by a particular mile marker on a particular day can be a signal to do something. How more innocuous can you get?

The Motivation of Spies

Another interesting tidbit was the five motivators of spies. He used an acronym to share this, C.R.I.M.E. 🙂

C - Compromise: This is where the individual is compromised and spies to keep the compromise a secret, i.e. girl friend, taking money for something, etc.

R - Revenge: One of the oldest reasons in the world. The spy is getting back at someone because of revenge.

I - Ideology: A belief that what they are doing is the right thing to do.

M - Money: These folks just want the cash.

E - ?: Unfortunately, I either didn't right this one down or we ran out of time.


The final bit of the evening was spent walking through some cases from the past and seeing what the motivators where and how they were caught. Very interesting stuff.

Week Four

In week four we talked about weapons of mass destruction and evidence collection. We also were able to do some hands on stuff, evidence related, not WMD related 🙂 The full post for week four will be up tomorrow.



Cyber Crime

The first topic in our week 2 session was Cyber Crime. I am not a big fan of the phrase cyber, but that's a bit of a personal issue 🙂 If you remember, the FBI has 10 major priorities. If you need a refresher, check out the Week 1 - Part 1 post.

Cyber crime is the number three priority for the FBI. The Cyber Crime Division has its own set of priorities. They  involve detecting, preventing and reacting to:

  • Counter-terrorism intrusions
  • Counter-intelligence intrusions
  • Criminal intrusions
  • Chile exploitation involving computers
  • Intellectual property theft involving computers
  • Internet-based fraud

The division currently is engaged in four initiatives.

One of facts I found very interesting is that Cyber Crime Task Force have local law enforcement representatives sitting along side federal agents. They receive the same clearances and have access to the same resources. This makes pursuit of the bad guys that much easier.

Another good tidbit of information to be aware of is that there is a place where you can report suspected malicious activity. It is called that Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The next topic was Internet Safety.

Internet Safety

This section dealt with providing education to people, mainly children, about internet safety. The presenter was Karen Gale, an FBI Victim Assistance Specialist. I have seen Karen speak before and will point you to a previous post for details about that program.

In addition to the Netsmartz program, there is the Parent's Guide to Internet Safety and Safe Online Surfing programs.

Our final topic for the evening was White Collar Crime.

White Collar Crime

Frankly, I couldn't take notes fast enough on this topic. There was a huge amount of information shared. The following are the areas of fraud the FBI is involved in:

  • Corporate Fraud
  • Health Care Fraud
  • Mortgage Fraud
  • Securities & Commodities Fraud
  • Insurance Fraud | Consumer Information
  • Mass Marketing Fraud
  • Asset Forfeiture/Money Laundering
  • Bankruptcy Fraud
  • Hedge Fund Fraud

Of these, it appeared that Mortgage and Health Care fraud are the most prevalent right now.


The next session will cover Counter-intelligence/Espionage and International/Domestic Terrorism.



Part 1 is here. The next topics we discussed were Violent Gangs/Criminal Enterprises and Undercover Operations/Profiling.

Gangs/Criminal Enterprise

I was surprised to hear about the amount of gang activity in the Midwest. I knew there was a certain amount, but never did I anticipate that it was as prevalent as it is. The main activity that gangs are invovled in in the Midwest is drug trafficking and distribution although all other criminal activities are represented.

One of the primary tools the FBI uses in combating violent gangs are Safe Streets Task Forces. A Safe Streets Task force is a multi-jurisdictional task force comprised of FBI, state and local law enforcement personnel.

Another great resource is the National Gang Intelligence Center (NGIC.) The NGIC is a multi-agency effort that takes information from all over the country and the world and integrates it. It is then available to those agencies and has proved to be a valuable resource for gang information and analytical support.

It was interesting to hear about the tactics they use to compromise these gangs.

Undercover Operations/Profiling

The conversation about Undercover Operations was particularly interesting. A common misconception, one that I operated under, is that every FBI agent can be an undercover agent. This is not true. Here is are some stats on the FBI:

There are currently about 33,000 FBI employees. This includes agents, support staff, intelligence analysts, tech specialists, etc. Of that 33,000ish number, about 13,000 are special agents which you have to be in order to work undercover. Of that 13000, there are only about 1400 agents actively available for undercover work. I use the words about and ish because the actual numbers are confidential.

Now, you might be thinking that it isn't any big deal to get more if they need them. Again, nope. The vetting process for an agent to become undercover approved is a long and arduous one. I won't go into to detail, but let's just say if you managed to have any secrets after your Top Secret clearance check, you won't after this process.

There is also a rigorous ongoing safeguarding process than ensures that undercover agents are still dealing with the almost overwhelming stresses of what they do.

One thing that increases my respect for the people I am meeting with and interacting with is they don't try to sugar coat things. They share both the good things and the things that were not the FBI's proudest moments. For instance, when undercover operations first began in the early 70s, there was little guidance about what was appropriate and what wasn't. As a result, things occurred that shouldn't have. They learned from that and made the program better.

I can't go into much more detail about what we learned, but suffice it to say it was really cool 🙂

Violent Crimes

The final bit of the evening was used to discuss the Violent Crimes efforts the FBI is involved in. These fall into three categories:

  1. Counter Terrorism
  2. Adult Crimes
  3. Child Protection

They were touched on briefly and we will be talking about them in more depth later in the program.

In Closing

I am really looking forward to this week's session. We will be talking about Cyber Crime, a child focused Internet safety program that the FBI is part of, and White Collar Crime.

Keep tuned in for more!


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On March 23rd, 2010, I attended my first session of the FBI Citizens' Academy. I was quite excited and the experience was everything I hoped it would be.

Fair warning, I am going to sound like an FBI fan boy in these posts and there are several reasons for this.

  1. The agents I have met through my association with Infragard and, now, with the Academy are truly dedicated men and women who go above and beyond the call of duty in their efforts to fulfill the FBI's mandates.
  2. Not only are they dedicated, but they are great people! Would you give up 7 evenings to tell a group of people what and why you do what you do? I truly appreciate the sacrifice they are making so that I can learn more about how the FBI works.
  3. By no means the last reason, but the FBI does some really cool stuff and I get to learn about it directly from the people who are in the trenches. Very very nifty.

History of the FBI

The session began with Weyson Dunn, Special Agent in Charge of the of the Omaha Division of the FBI, giving us a brief history of the FBI. The first thing he talked about was the heraldry of the FBI seal. Heraldry is a fascinating topic and we learned the meaning of each facet of the seal. If you hover your mouse over the image below, you will see annotations that describe the meaning of each part of the seal.

Here are a few of tidbits about the FBI that I thought were interesting:

  1. Although the organization was established in 1908, it did not become officially known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation until 1935.
  2. The Director of the FBI is limited to serving a 10 year term. This limit was established after the tenure of J. Edgar Hoover to ensure that there would never again be a lifelong Director.
  3. The Director of the FBI, while appointed by a sitting President when necessary, cannot be removed by one. In other words, the Director's position does not change with the administration.
  4. In the '30s, with the increase of the gangster threat, the FBI was given broader cross-jurisdictional powers and began providing services to other law enforcement agencies. Those services include a centralized Identification Lab and a Technical Crime lab.
  5. The '40s and '50s brought the threat of subversion and the branching out of the FBI into foreign  investigation. The FBI actually preceded the CIA in gathering foreign intelligence.
  6. The '60s brought civil rights as the focal point.
  7. The '70s and '80s were dominated by white collar crime and currently, counter intelligence is a primary focus.

If you are curious about more history of the FBI, take a look at this page.

Mission and Priorities

The FBI has a clearly articulated mission and well defined priorities. From the FBI Quick Facts page:

The FBI's mission is:

To protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.

The FBI currently has 10 priorities. They are:

1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack
2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage
3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes
4. Combat public corruption at all levels
5. Protect civil rights
6. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises
7. Combat major white-collar crime
8. Combat significant violent crime
9. Support federal, state, local and international partners
10. Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI's mission

We will be covering each of the these priorities in the weeks to come and get to do some other cool things like hostage negotiation role playing and shooting FBI weaponry.

In Closing

We had two more sessions after S.A.C Dunn finished his opening remarks and they were also fascinating. Look for part 2 of the week 1 synopsis soon.

If you have any questions you would like me to ask while at the sessions or have any comments, please leave them below or email me. My contact info is on the About page.


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I am really excited about a new opportunity that I can finally talk about.

No, I am not joining the FBI....yet 🙂 I have, however, been accepted to the FBI Citizens' Academy.

From the FBI Citizens' Academy site:

Want to find out first hand how the FBI works? Hear how the Bureau tracks down spies and terrorists? Learn how to collect and preserve evidence? See what it is like to fire a weapon and put yourself in the shoes of a Special Agent making a split-second, life-or-death decision?

I think this is going to be a lot of fun and give me a much greater understanding and appreciation of what the FBI does.

Here is a link to a Q&A with some folks that have attended.

I will be blogging about the experience as much as I am allowed.


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